But God’s anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. And the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand. And the donkey turned aside out of the road and went into the field. And Balaam struck the donkey, to turn her into the road. Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. And when the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pushed against the wall and pressed Balaam’s foot against the wall. So he struck her again. Then the angel of the LORD went ahead and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam. And Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.” And the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?” And he said, “No.”
Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand. And he bowed down and fell on his face. And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me. The donkey saw me and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let her live.” Then Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you stood in the road against me. Now therefore, if it is evil in your sight, I will turn back.” And the angel of the LORD said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only the word that I tell you.” So Balaam went on with the princes of Balak.
When Balak heard that Balaam had come, he went out to meet him at the city of Moab, on the border formed by the Arnon, at the extremity of the border. And Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not send to you to call you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to honor you?” Balaam said to Balak, “Behold, I have come to you! Have I now any power of my own to speak anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that must I speak.” Then Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath-huzoth. And Balak sacrificed oxen and sheep, and sent for Balaam and for the princes who were with him.
And in the morning Balak took Balaam and brought him up to Bamoth-baal, and from there he saw a fraction of the people. (Numbers 22:22-41 ESV)
When the messenger/angel of Yahweh does not take a form, being a pure spirit, he is invisible to Balaam. Yet Balaam is supposed to be sensitive to Yahweh’s presence and he is not. His donkey is more sensitive than Balaam is and reacts to the angel. Balaam expresses little surprise when his donkey speaks and carries on a conversation with him. Even then he is not sensitive to God’s doings. So when he says he sinned because he did not know Yahweh was standing in front of him, he speaks correctly. And of course it is evil in God’s sight to go with Balak’s men to try to curse Israel. But again God wants this to happen to show Balak that God’s people are under His blessing.
When we go against our conscience and seek to justify wrong actions we are in for the discipline of God. The harder we make our conscience, the harder the discipline must be to get through to us. Balaam was hoping for some way to get the remuneration that Balak was offering (see 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 1:11). He was also guilty of abusing his animal. Each is a self-centered action and merits discipline.
Has Balaam learned his lesson? We’ll see that he has not. Are you trying to stand against God’s discipline? What is so appealing about your sin that you will not listen to or see God right in front of you?
Any area of your life not occupied by Jesus Christ is a bridgehead for Satan. [Stephen F. Olford]